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Archive for the ‘Memoir’ Category

Sure, I was bullied as a kid. But that one boy who tripped me up on my bike, when I fell and broke my arm, I got back at him. I pushed an ice cream cone right in his face, and I don’t remember being bullied ever again. Well, except by a teacher.

Over sushi I was telling the Grands about Catholic school. How we had to sit still with our hands folded in front of us all the time. One teacher made me stand in the corner for half a day, luckily she didn’t have a dunce hat. “Why,” they wanted to know.

“Because I was talking to a boy!”

And I swear, we all broke out in belly laughs. One of the worst moments in my young life seemed pretty comical now. I mean shaming a child, it just doesn’t compute or translate well in today’s world, or maybe it does?

I’ve been having an ‘on and off’ conversation with the Love Bug and the L’il Pumpkin about “bad people” ever since someone stole my wallet while we were having lunch at Panera. What should we do if we have to confront a bad person. Their parents have been telling them that everybody is good, that you turn and walk away from a confrontation, and I get that. You don’t want to color their young minds with horror stories – and yet, they already hate Mr T cause, well, we ALL do.

I was thinking about this after the Democratic debates in Atlanta. I was surprised at how much I like Andrew Yang. He seemed to be the only authentic person up on that stage, like he was talking to me. When he spoke about looking our kids and Grands in the eye, and leaving them a better future, when he shared that he had an autistic child, when he talked about keeping America safe:

While it was well into the debate before Yang spoke, his answers about some of the threats to American society once again, brought new ideas to the debate stage. Artificial intelligence, which he’s mentioned in previous debates, is a future threat that must be taken seriously. And setting up something like a WTO (World Trade Organization) for data? His ingenuity was astounding. Bold ideas suit Yang well — and, when well thought out and pragmatic, they get high points in a debate.  https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/21/opinions/buttigieg-yang-stole-the-show-debate-opinion-graham/index.html

A WTO for Data?!?! I mean, AI is coming, along with the Russians and China, and will we be ready for it? Then the Rocker sent me an article about Yang;  “As President, I will establish a Department of the ATTENTION Economy,” https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/18/perspectives/andrew-yang-technology/index.html

He wants to study what social media is doing to our kids. It’s like “Back to the Future,” will they become (expletive) or something? My kids didn’t have smart phones growing up, tech was in its infancy, email was a new thing. And the Grands don’t have a tablet or phone or anything YET; but they DO use tablets in school and see everyone else around them staring down into their hands. The Love Bug recently asked her Dad if they could have a “Device-Free” day because she’d heard about this from her teachers.

A young mind can become addicted faster than our old brains want to believe. And social media is simply another method for bullies to do what they do best – shame and humiliate. A 12 year old girl in Nashville just committed suicide after being bullied mercilessly. How many “followers” do you have? Did you see that picture of so-and-so on Insta?

Remember how inadequate you felt your Freshman year in high school?  Well, add a few years of comparing yourself to others on top of that. I walked straight outta Catholic school into a public high school, and was lucky to find a bunch of nerdy, pre-college kids to welcome me.

Running around the neighborhood on my bike was pretty care-free in comparison to today, even if a bully thought he could hurt me, I didn’t let him define me. I got even. My not-so-polite message is not to run away from a fight, not to make excuses for someone’s bad behavior. My Grands will eventually meet up with a real “bad person,” they will eventually have a smart phone in their hands or maybe a piece of Borg machinery hard-wired directly into their skulls.

Should we employ algorithms to cap a child’s screen time per day, or just boot them out the door to play? We are experiencing a “GLOBAL epidemic” of childhood inactivity, what do you think? https://www.bbc.com/news/health-50466061

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In the depths of a crisis, have you ever looked around and asked yourself how in the world you got there? How did Great Grandma Ada, a Jewish girl from Brooklyn, end up in Nashville for instance. I am less likely to examine the minutiae of my circumstances, maybe because I was tossed about from one home to another as a child. I had to learn to ride the waves of two families. Plus, I’m not one to live in the past; but I do love to see Shakespeare performed outside, amidst the sounds of birds and trains.

This past weekend our whole family bumped into “The Tempest” outside our restaurant window! We loved it so much, we came back the next day with lawn chairs. A deposed Duke Prospero, has been tossed onto an island in a storm with only his young daughter, Miranda, some sprites of course, and a strange, savage man named Caliban. So what does he do? He whips up an even bigger storm with his magic to payback his conniving brother and his court who are now shipwrecked alongside him.

Shenanigans begin!

When Bob and I first married and moved to the Berkshires, we would regularly attend Shakespeare at the Mount in Lenox. Edith Wharton’s “cottage” garden was the setting for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” our introduction to the Bard en plein air. Of course we became enamored of this comedy of errors, where sprites and fairies rule the roost and make mockery of love and lust. Puck is a most mischievous servant and of course magic plays a central role in this play as well.

Leaping ahead from the 17th Century to today, I wonder who will be the ultimate playwright of our turbulent times? We may not have dukes and kings and queens but we do have a president who would be king. He loves opulence and the fame reality TV brings, he yearns for power and adoring crowds of red-hatted people. Kim Kardashian-West seems to be the only person who has played him recently, successfully lobbying Mr T to enact the first criminal justice reform bill in recent history.

Now Kim, a perfect medieval sprite, is studying Law – and what does Shakespeare say about lawyers? And not the one about killing all of them:

I have neither the scholar’s melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician’s, which is fantastical; nor the courtier’s, which is proud; not the soldier’s which is ambitious; nor the lawyer’s, which is politic; nor the lady’s, which is nice; nor the lover’s, which is all these: but it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, which, by often rumination, wraps me in a most humorous sadness.

Yes, lawyers can be political. Think about Gloria Allred’s daughter, the feminist lawyer, Lisa Bloom. She’s found herself in a bit of a Tempest while arguing FOR Harvey Weinstein in a memo she suggested they sully an actress’ reputation. Paint Rose McGowan to be unhinged, a “harpy” in Shakespearian terms. I’m heading over to Parnassus soon to get the new book, “She Said” by Jody Kantor and Megan Twohey. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/08/books/review/she-said-jodi-kantor-megan-twohey.html

Maybe this is how we can frame our troubled times. Pulitzer Prize winning journalists piece together the culture of abuse and obfuscation that dominates some of our most cherished institutions. And instead of a play, we will make a film. How did we end up caging children, separating families, and drawing Alabama into Hurricane Dorian with a Sharpie? How have we managed to separate ourselves from the natural world and our allies on this forlorn island?

Magically, we landed on a lawn in a park in the city to help ease our “humorous sadness.”

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I call us the Christmas party babies – the seven family members who celebrate their births during August and September. The Rocker almost always had a beach party in August; I remember painting a hundred rocks gold for a Dick Tracy treasure hunt one year. The Bride’s party, in September, was a bit easier rounding up (or rather down) a guest list since school had started. We could invite her whole class instead of the whole beach club. This was before Evites and cell phones people!

And today is Bob’s big day. Happy Birthday to my honey.

Bob is now officially older than dirt, um me, for a few weeks at least. He’s been celebrating early, recreating our time in Tuscany last year, by making pasta with Ms Berdelle’s vintage pasta machine. We figure he’s got the ravioli down, which is a good thing since our local Italian market was just demolished to make way for progress. Will this new chef be able to recreate Lazzaroli’s goat cheese and pear ravioli? He’s already perfected the classic spinach and ricotta.

And I must admit Bob’s fettuccini this week, paired with our home-grown-home-made pesto, was bellissima!

What to get the man who wants nothing? I married a guy who defined “Minimalism” long before it was cool. Every few years we go into a store to buy him the same number Levi jeans he’s been wearing since I first met him 57 years ago! No wait, he needed a new alarm clock this week so he tried battling it out at Target with incoming Vandy students. He lost. Only two small travel clocks were left on the shelf. So he gave up and drove home in a huff, reluctantly searching the evil Empire of Amazon.

Which only reaffirmed his opinion of shopping.

Tomorrow the Love Bug turns 7! I think she grew 3 inches this summer. I was lucky enough to have Nana Camp extended another week because she came down with an ear infection and persistent fever; unlucky for her, she missed her first week of second grade. We played games, watched Disney channel, painted with water colors, and once we even ventured out to the Farmer’s Market. So even though I wanted to give her a new bike for her birthday, she told me she wanted another American Girl Doll.

Now I hate, really hate to sound old, but when I was young we got ONE doll and lots of different clothes. That doll would even cry and wet her diaper! Sometimes our mothers would even sew the doll clothes, and if we were lucky we had a doll trunk or a wardrobe to keep everything nice and organized.

But the Bride had lots of Barbies growing up since her allergies only allowed for plastic toys. The price differential however of a 1980s Barbie and an almost 2020 American Girl Doll is off the charts. My effort to convince the Bug that she only needed one doll was futile.

We’ll have a small family party tomorrow, highlighted by my 3-layer carrot cake, the Groom’s favorite. She has already had a class party shared with one of her school buddies – now why hadn’t I thought of that?

How is it possible Labor Day is right around the bend? We’ve been thinking if the Second Coming returns from the G7 with his proverbial foot in his puckered mouth, we may have to reinvent ourselves and go back to work. I could always try selling my necklaces and Bob could start a pasta food truck! Here are my birthday babes learning all about honey!

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The rain had stopped for a few hours, so I ventured outside to check out the anniversary shenanigans of my favorite boutique in Nashville, Alexis and Bolt. A mere block away, we have a special relationship since they opened and we moved here about the same time two years ago – has it been 2 years? Early on Bob helped them out with a little problem that first week, while walking Ms Bean, and then told me I’d love the shop!

Bob never encourages me to shop so I knew I would love it. Dogs are always welcome too.

There were huge balloons and signature cocktails and the best Bolt Babes to celebrate their commitment to style and the neighborhood. But just as I was walking down our alley I heard the most mournful screams for help. I started running, taking out my phone to dial 911 when I saw a few women standing at the back of a Ford pickup truck with a trailer attached. As I got closer I could see a young man on his knees with his thumb caught in the hitch.

I saw something that looked like a tiny food truck halfway off the other side of the trailer.

It took just a few seconds to understand that the young woman was pleading with passers-by to jump onto the trailer and thereby see-saw the lock open to free his hand. I don’t remember dropping my bag, but I did jump up there and stood in a tight line of women, like Rockettes getting ready to kick. We jumped in unison and he rolled away.

My EMT training of 40 years ago kicked in and I told him to lay down and covered him with my coat while the woman-in-charge-owner-of-the-trucks raised his legs above his heart. Someone had called 911 and I’d called Bob who was just a few houses down the street. Thankfully his thumb was still attached but looked badly broken.

Bob did his thing, ordering ice from the fish store and making sure all his other fingers could move. When the ambulance arrived his color was back and he could stand up fine.

Never underestimate the power of a group of single-minded women. We worked in unison to rescue his hand while the owner of the tiny truck and the big Ford pickup told me that so many guys had just walked by when it first happened, while she was pleading for help. I wondered what they were thinking, is this a scam?

Bob and our neighbor Ron helped push the tiny truck into position on the street, but it was not a food truck after all, it’s a flower stall on wheels called Taylor’d Crowns where they make beautiful tiaras on the spot with ribbons and baby’s breath to make you feel like a medieval princess. I could imagine that every single girl at a Nashville bachelorette/hen party will want to wear one of her creations! https://taylordcrowns.com/

And the funny thing is, the tiny 1969 Citroen H van is from France and her name is “Gertie,” Grandma Gi’s name was Gertrude.

My sister-in-law Jorja was just talking with me the other day about the Flapper, aka Grandma Gi. She’s been sending us both signs lately! Sometimes it’s a recipe and sometimes it’s an angel making flower crowns.

Let’s encourage our daughters to not just BE nice, but to alway DO the “right and proper thing,” as my brother Mike would say. To strive to be their authentic selves; tell them that not everybody has to like them. And that’s OK.

These two could use some flower crowns!

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Last year, we traveled to Italy with a group of our old friends. I wrote about the sheep bells and the wine tasting; it was by far one of our best adventures. But you probably didn’t know that Bess, our chief archivist and amazing photographer, was the editor of our high school yearbook back in 1966. Underneath my senior school picture was a quote, “Where’s Bobby?”

It was funny at the time. Teenage Bob was a bundle of energy, always on the move. His knee like a jackhammer under my desk in French class.

This year it appears that dredging up old yearbooks is trending. I first cringed at the suggestion, in Brett Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS hearing, that one of the girls in another Catholic prep school was an “alum” of most of the boys in his class. So we learned that he and his cohorts objectify women, and love to drink beer. It was all there in black and white, not just in his yearbook, but on every calendar he kept locked away in a drawer.

I get the embarrassment of our teenage selves. When my kids came home with their high school yearbooks I was usually not “allowed” to look at them. It wasn’t so much what was printed on those pages – the Rocker was voted “Most Changed” because he came in like a little surfer dude and left like a heavy metal rock star. Instead, it was the impromptu pen to paper musings of their friends and so-called friends, the doodles and yearnings of years of adolescent angst.

But we all went to school in NJ. Is the South still grappling with our nation’s collective scar of slavery?

VA’s Governor Ralph Northam handled his shameful, KKK and blackface medical school yearbook picture poorly. First, he sort of apologized, and then he said, “It wasn’t me.” The wistful Michael Jackson moment was tone deaf! Then yesterday, I read that VA’s Attorney General Mark Herring has said he wore “brown makeup” to a party.

What is going on in my lovely state of Virginia?

I asked the Bride if she still has her medical school yearbook. After all, she went to UVA and Duke undergrad in NC, maybe I could find a clue. Are elite Southern schools still harboring a vestige of white ‘good ole boy’ entitlement? Northam graduated from med school over thirty years ago, I was eager to compare. Unfortunately, if there was a yearbook for the Bride and Groom’s class, they never got one.

Stacey Abrams from Georgia countered Mr T’s State of the Union this week with this: “We continue to confront racism from our past and in our present, which is why we must hold everyone from the highest offices to our own families accountable for racist words and deeds and call racism what it is, wrong.” 

We are living in a transparent world, anything you might want to know is just a Google moment away from our fingertips. Horrible, racist, anti-semitic, misogynistic words that were once uttered behind restricted, whites-only doors, and sometimes found their way into yearbooks, are once again finding fruitful soil in our great country under the guise of “America First.”.

The image of hateful men wearing white shirts and khaki pants, holding tiki lights and shouting, “You shall not replace us,” on Thomas Jefferson’s campus has been seared into my memory. The confederate statues In Charlottesville are still standing.

For a more visceral understanding of our racial history, I’d like to recommend a book, “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi. It is not an easy book to read, I finished it on vacation; it covers 300 years of the African American diaspora and follows two half-sisters, one captured and sold into slavery, another who stayed behind in Ghana. https://www.npr.org/2016/06/07/480477931/homegoing-is-a-sprawling-epic-brimming-with-compassion

Until we can achieve true socio-economic justice for all our citizens, until black mothers can stop having “the talk” with their sons about racial profiling, until images of the Jim Crow South can be placed within the context of what it was, a vile chapter of our history, until every single monument to the confederacy is placed in a museum,.. only until then will we be able to reconcile our past with our present.

Dig up your old yearbooks, they are a time capsule into our souls.

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One thing about Nashville, it’s never boring.

It’s been a cold and busy reentry; waiting for Uber at the airport, freezing in a 20 degree wind tunnel wearing a summer dress, should have been my first clue. Getting back to reality would usually take some time, but my island speed shifted into overdrive fast. Our beautiful NC niece Tammy was visiting her Grandmother Ada, so we made some delicious, authentic ravioli for a small dinner party, and yesterday was game day for the Love Bug!

I’m not talking football here, it’s Firely Piggies girls basketball.

They still sometimes head down the court in the wrong direction, pink shirts and pigtails flying. But they won one and lost one, so we all had a blast. And who doesn’t like a concession stand with soda and candy? Still, since the weather here is warming rapidly, I longed for a completely unscheduled day with the Grands. Just some time to sit on the porch, or play “Go Fish,” or even ride around the neighborhood on bikes.

The word “boring” was banned in my house. Whenever the young Bride or Rocker would discover this word I’d immediately put the kibosh on it! “Look around you,” I’d say, “there is so much to do, only boring people get bored!” I was happy to notice this same reaction in my daughter when her children would gaze up at her, in the middle of paradise, and say, “I’m bored Mama.”

We would scoff, they would laugh, and finally she would admonish them. Then off they would go, to create a pretend shelter in their room for homeless people – pillows for beds and seashells for food. Such young altruism made my heart sing.

But I’m afraid parents today feel it’s their duty to keep their children entertained at all times. They have grown up in an age of “stranger danger” meaning only constant vigilance will do; free play time has become an archaic term. My kids rode their bikes to the school bus. Mothers now are being arrested for leaving their child in a car for a few minutes.

Last week, while discussing humbugs, the L’il Pumpkin told me he may have actually seen one, or it might have been his imagination… And this is exactly what I love to encourage – imagination, curiosity, creativity, a sense of wonder! Sometimes I would keep the Rocker home from school and call it a “mental health day.” Children need space to grow and dream.

Lin-Manuel Miranda once credited his “…unattended afternoons with fostering inspiration. “Because there is nothing better to spur creativity than a blank page or an empty bedroom,” he said.  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/02/opinion/sunday/children-bored.html

Maybe growing up an “Only,” with plenty of time on my own, is why the blank page never scared me! I’ll be attending a restorative yoga class this afternoon (thanks MaryAnn), while everyone else is watching Super Bowl Sunday or Puppy Bowl antics. Whatever you’re planning this #SundayFunday, I hope you stay UN-bored y’all.

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Is this the Year of the Dog, or the Year of the Bird? Last night, a gorgeous picture of a Boykin Spaniel popped up on my Instagram. Liver colored, with soulful eyes, droopy ears and curly fur, it looked just like my very first dog. She was the sweetest, most lovable creature ever, although maybe everyone’s first love takes on a special significance over time.

The Boykin’s photo was courtesy of a National Geographic photographer I’m following who is shooting a series called the #yearofthedogs. His name is Vincent J Musi, “…a trusted friend to animals everywhere.” He doesn’t just capture their distinct personalities, he tells you a little bit about his encounter – like how much the dog may have drooled, while noting that he’s also drooled back in the day. It’s a witty and wonderful start (or end) to any day!

Meanwhile, in the middle of my Monday, I found myself at the Animal Hospital with the Bride and Groom’s older dog, the much loved G-man. I just happened to be playing super heroes with our L’il Pumpkin when I noticed Mr G really digging into one of his paws. Upon closer inspection there was blood on his dew claw; so without further adieu, we headed to the Vet. At that point the Love Bug came home from school and wanted to keep us company.

Her level of empathy is amazing for a 5 year old.

I’ll dispense with the gory details, Mr G is now wearing the cone of shame to keep him from tearing off his bandaged leg. The hardest part will be keeping the new puppy from trying to attack him, um play with him. Maybe I should visit our friend Robin’s pet store, “Come, Sit, Stay” to find Mr G a special treat?

What is it about dogs? Almost every picture I have of me as a child has me standing next to, or holding a dog. The Flapper’s first child, my half-sister Shirley, the one I never knew, used to raise Welsh Corgis. Of all the dogs in the AKC, I too chose Corgis to adore when my children were little, never knowing that Shirley felt the same way. German Shepherd dogs hold a special place in my heart, and let’s face it, ANY and ALL rescues, like Ms Bean and G-Man.

My niece Lynn breeds the regal Scottish Deerhound, a breed known for their sweet temperament. She’s in that category of Best in Show dogs, traveling the country with a plethora of hounds in the back seats. Come to think of it, Shirley’s daughter Karen loves to travel with her canine companions too! Hmm, now that’s a children’s book!

Every other dog you meet in Nashville is a Frenchie! I loved Musi’s photo of a French Bulldog named Larry, who is friendly in a “take over the world” kind of way. Y’all know my Francophile ways, so a Frenchie might just fit with us whenever and where ever the wind blows. Having one pup in a city townhouse is enough for now.

But I digress, because I was wondering about 2018 now that we are 3 months in, and it seems that this isn’t the Year of the Dog, even though I’m a dog addict. It’s the “Year of the Bird!”

“National Geographic, National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International, and more than 100 organizations join forces for 12 months of storytelling and science to examine how our changing environment is impacting birds around the globe.”

However, I wasn’t entirely wrong because according to the Chinese calendar 2018 is the Year of the Dog! Loosely translated we should all have “prosperous wealth.” I’m OK with that, because a house isn’t a home until it’s covered in fur. Maybe my next post will be about birds, and the way Ms Bean just plucked one out of the air!? Happy Birding everyone!

Awwww poor G-Man.

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